Top 10s Revisited: NL Central

With clubs set to infuse more talent into their systems next week, and with being two months into the minor league season, it’s a great time to take a quick look at how the Top 10 prospects are doing in each system. Today, we’ll take a look at the National League Central. So far we’ve looked at the AL East, the NL East, and the AL Central.

*The Top 10 lists originally appeared in FanGraphs’ Second Opinion fantasy guide published in March.

St. Louis Cardinals

The club is receiving outstanding contributions from its rookies in 2010: Garcia and Freese. Both are definitely in the running for Rookie of the Year in the National League. Miller is off to a respectable start in low-A. He has a very good strikeout rate but he remains quite inconsistent, which is not unexpected. Lynn has moved up to triple-A with little trouble. Sanchez is an intriguing arm currently at double-A, while Descalso looks like he might develop into a useful utility player in the Majors.

Cincinnati Reds

The club’s 2009 draft and international signings are already paying off in a big way. Leake is one of the top rookies in the Majors, while Chapman is looking good in triple-A and Boxberger is cruising through high-A ball. Alonso, the club’s No. 1 draft pick from ’08, has reached triple-A but his numbers are modest through 21 games. Frazier has taken a pretty big step backward, and you have to wonder how much all the position changing has affected him. The club has nice pitching depth with Wood and Maloney both near MLB ready.

Chicago Cubs

I took a bit of a gamble by ranking Cashner as the No. 1 prospect in the system but it’s not looking too crazy now, as he really broke out this season and was recently promoted to the Majors. Castro is also contributing to the big league club right now and has looked good. Vitters is up to double-A but his lack of patience at the plate continues to prevent him from really breaking out. Jackson has thrown well in triple-A but – like Cashner – the organization moved him from the starting rotation to the bullpen at triple-A for a little while. The members of the lower half of the Top 10 list are pretty much treading water in 2010.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Both Alvarez and Lincoln have held their own in triple-A this season, but neither one has really stepped up his game to force the organization into making a move. Sanchez continues to hit well as a pro and could conceivably move up to double-A at some point this season. Tabata has recaptured a lot of his prospect value by embracing more of a “small ball” approach. He’s one stolen base shy of his career high and it’s just June 4. The club has to be pretty excited about the potential of two left-handed starters: Locke and Owens. Marte, who’s currently hurt, has also taken a step forward in his development this season.

Milwaukee Brewers

Escobar is having a respectable rookie season in the Majors but his lack of steals definitely takes a bite out of his value. Lawrie has had a bit of an up-and-down season in double-A but he’s young for the level and the organization has been aggressive with him. Gamel has battled injuries and is just starting to heat up. The middle of the Top 10 list has really made some strides this season. Braddock is pitching out of the Brewers’ bullpen and Lucroy is also on the MLB squad. Odorizzi, a supplemental first round pick from ’08, is enjoying his first taste of full-season ball with 60 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. Heckathorn has exceeded my expectations and then some with a very good showing in low-A. The knock on him has always been his inability to overpower hitters despite very good stuff but it looks like the Brewers’ minor league coaching staff has done a great job with the ’09 supplemental first round pick. The club’s No. 1 pick from ’09, Arnett, has struggled.

Houston Astros

Castro got off to a slow start in 2010 but he’s really turning his season around now. The name to really watch in this system, though, is Lyles. The 19 year old is more than holding his own in double-A with 58 hits and 13 walks allowed in 63.1 innings. He’s struck out 52 batters. That’s not bad at all for a kid that was skipped over high-A ball. Another arm, Bushue, has also taken a step forward in 2010. Outside of Castro, the most interesting bat to watch in the system is Austin, although it’s hard to know how much of an impact Lancaster is having on his numbers. He still needs a lot of work to improve his SB success rate; he’s also batting just .190 against southpaws.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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